State Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, introduced a bill this week that would significantly increase the amount of marijuana a person could have in his or her possession for personal use before being charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
Under Alexander’s bill, a person would not be charged with a misdemeanor unless he or she had more than 4 ounces of marijuana. Under current law, possession of more than a half-ounce is a misdemeanor. A person would have to have more than 16 ounces — more than 10 times the current limit — to be charged with a felony.
House Bill 994 is the most recent effort in Alexander’s nearly decade-long push for marijuana law reform. He said the bill would also allow people convicted of misdemeanor possession in the past to pay a fee and have that conviction removed from their record.
“So if you have on your record possession of up to 4 ounces, you can go back to the jurisdiction where that took place, pay a fee and have your records expunged,” Alexander said.
While a 2017 Elon University poll showed more than 80 percent of North Carolinians support the legalization of medical marijuana, North Carolina is not among the 30 states that have legal access to marijuana.
“Any way you cut it, the citizens by and large don’t think that we should be penalizing people for possession of small amounts of marijuana,” Alexander said.
A spokesperson for the NC Family Policy Council, which defines itself on its website as “dedicated to the preservation of the family and traditional family values,” said it opposes the bill.
Military veteran Perry Parks, who said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is a former president of the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network, said the cannabis plant has many medical benefits and that Alexander’s bill is a first step toward legalization.